The easiest way to get a competitor to perform is to say — or even imply — that he’s not good enough. That formula has worked well for the Kansas City Royals right-hander Brady Singer.
The Royals and Singer (2-1, 4.15 ERA) will oppose the visiting Blue Jays in the finale of a three-game series Wednesday. Left-hander Yusei Kikuchi (2-2, 3.91) will start for Toronto.
Kansas City is still looking for its first run of the series. The Royals were shut out 7-0 Tuesday night, following Monday’s 8-0 whitewash, the first time since May 6-7, 2021, that they were shut out in back-to-back games. It was the their major-league-high eighth shutout loss of the season.
“We had a couple chances but needed the big hit,” a discouraged Kansas City manager Mike Matheny said after the game.
Singer, who had been a starter his whole professional life, was sent to the bullpen coming out of spring training. He didn’t get much work there, so he was sent to Triple-A Omaha on April 28.
When he returned on May 17, he was ready to prove that he did belong, allowing no runs on four hits in seven innings to get the win in the second game of a doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox. He was sent down again afterward and came back on May 22.
Through his first three starts back with the parent club, he had allowed three runs on 14 hits with three walks and 20 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings. That gave him with a 1.36 ERA in that span. It was a pretty good “I told you so” to his teammates, the organization and the fans.
In his past two starts, he tapered off a bit, but he believes it was not because of complacency.
“I think you have to have it every time,” he said when asked if he still has the attitude of proving himself when he takes the mound. “You can never get comfortable. Things can change in a minute.
“I feel like I’m throwing the ball well. My preparation is the same. I feel like I’m riding the same line I did in my first start up through my last start. The command on my fastball, plus the movement on it, has helped a lot. The slider has been great. I’ve been able to command it when I needed to. Those two pitches going well, then adding the changeup, has been a huge help.”
Singer has only faced the Blue Jays once, but it was an impressive start. He threw six scoreless innings in a no-decision, allowing just two hits and striking out six and walking three on April 18, 2021.
Kikuchi had five strong starts in May, compiling a 2-0 record with a 2.36 ERA. However, in his first start in June, he gave up four runs on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings on Friday against the Minnesota Twins. Kukuchi served up three home runs in the 9-3 loss.
“He didn’t have a bad outing,” Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said Tuesday about Kukuchi’s last outing. “He struck out (six), so that was good. But you have to give the other team credit. He was around the zone and they took advantage. If you strike out (six), you’ve got good stuff.
“He has to keep throwing strikes, keep doing the same thing he’s been doing.”
Kikuchi has struggled in his career against the Royals, compiling an 0-2 record with a 7.58 ERA in four starts, all as a member of the Seattle Mariners. His best outing vs. Kansas City came on April 10, 2019, when he allowed three runs in six innings in a no-decision.
–Field Level Media